This year’s rookies are about to dig their hand in the dirt to play for real. What about the next crop of stars out of the ACC & in the 2020 NFL Draft? The NFL can sometimes mean – Not For Long, so it’s next man up. College football officially kicked off on labor day weekend. Who are the next guys to take the league by storm? Will there be a Daniel Jones, who shoots up draft boards? Or a CB, like Greedy Williams, who grades as a first rounder, but slides down the board. Let’s take a look at several prospects conference by conference to keep an eye on this season. We’ll start with our power five conferences.
AJ Dillon – Junior, RB, Boston College
This bruiser checks in at 6′ and 250 lbs. The Eagle back has been named 1st Team Preseason All-Conference. Dillon ran for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a freshman, Dillon stepped on campus rumbling for over 1500 yards. He is the first BC running to eclipse 1000 yards rushing in his first 2 seasons. If Dillon keeps churning this season, he could picked in one of the first three rounds of next year’s draft.
Shaq Quarterman – Senior, ILB, Miami (FL)
The 6-1, 240 lbs. backer has moved up the ranks during his tenure with the Hurricanes. As a freshman, the Orange Park, FL, native started 13 games as a true freshman earning 3rd team All ACC by the coaches. The next season, he recorded 83 total tackles earning 2nd team All ACC honors in 2018. Quarterman started the season with a bang registering 4 total tackles and a fumble recovery. That recovery last Saturday against #8 Florida gave him a chance to wear ‘The U’s” newest version of the Turnover Chain.
Mekhi Becton – Junior, OL, Louisville
The 6-7, 369 lbs. could be protecting your NFL QB’s blind side next season should he declare for next April’s draft. Many scouts and arm chair draft nicks predict Becton going close to the top half of next year’s first round. Scouts will also drool over his reported seven foot wingspan. The past two seasons, the Virginia native, has started 23 games at tackle. In 2017, he helped lead the way for a top 3 rushing offense that averaged close to 250 yards on the ground for the Cardinals.
Bryce Hall – Senior, CB, Virginia
Hall is raking in a ton of preseason accolades for his final season with the Cavaliers. The 6-1, 200 lbs. corner was named 1st team All-American by Athlon Sports and his name is on watch lists for some of college football’s positional trophies. These include the Thorpe award given to the nation’s top defensive back and the Nagurski trophy, which goes to the nation’s best all around defensive player. Some mock drafts have the Harrisburg, PA, native going in the 2nd half of round 1 in 2020.
Travis Etienne – Junior, RB, Clemson
The 5-10, 215 lbs. back sliced and diced his way to the tune of over 200 yards on the ground and hit pay dirt 3 times against Georgia Tech last Thursday. Etienne accomplished all of this on 12 carries, one of which went 90 yards to the end zone. The Louisiana native tops Clemson’s record books with nearly 8 yards per carry and ranks third in rushing touchdowns with 37 in his career. However, this Tiger may opt to stay in school next year with what could be a loaded running back class in next April’s draft.
And, if you want a look into the 2021 NFL Draft, check out these highlights from Clemson pivot Trevor Lawrence. In Part 2 of Next Man Up, we’ll head south to the Big 12, the home to two highly touted pass catchers.